Miami Marlins Series Preview vs Atlanta Braves

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MIAMI, FL - APRIL 29: Caleb Smith #31 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park on April 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 29: Caleb Smith #31 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park on April 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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After getting swept in a three-game series at Wrigley where the Marlins were outscored by the Cubs 30-9, the Fish are looking to rebound against a hot Braves team.

The  Braves are currently sitting in first place in the N.L. East with a record of 20-14 and their duo of Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies are turning heads across the nation. The biggest key for the Marlins this series will be to slow down Atlanta’s potent bats.

Thursday- Mike Foltynewicz vs. Caleb Smith

MIAMI, FL – APRIL 29: Caleb Smith #31 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park on April 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – APRIL 29: Caleb Smith #31 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park on April 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Smith

Major League Baseball’s newest strikeout artist takes the mound for the Marlins in the first game of this four-game set. Smith’s 2018 has been a rather interesting one, he currently has the fourth highest K/9 rate in all of baseball (min. 30 IP) behind Max Scherzer, Garret Cole and James Paxton.

What is interesting about this is the fact that Smith doesn’t throw prototypical high strikeout stuff. He features a fastball that averages 92.7 MPH, a slider as his secondary pitch and an average change up that he throws mostly to righties.

While Smith’s fastball does have a relatively high spin rate and his slider has good depth and late break, expect his early season strikeout numbers to regress towards the mean. Across his minor and major league career, he has never had a season where he averaged more than 9.90 K/9.

With that being said, I believe that Smith is the real deal. His xFip indicates that he is an above average pitcher and his ERA that is sitting at 3.67 concurs. So far on the year, Smith’s kryptonite has been the number of baserunners he has allowed via the free pass.

Smith currently has the tenth highest BB/9 mark in the Major League Baseball. If/when his strikeout rate does fall, Smith will have to find ways to combat his walk problems.

Craig Edwards of FanGraphs recently wrote a great article that compares Smith to Diamondbacks hurler, Robbie Ray. Both are high walk, high strikeout pitchers with similar profiles.

If Smith can carve out a role similar to the one that Ray has had with the D-Backs, the 26-year-old lefty could be a key in the Marlins rebuild.

Foltynewicz

The Marlins are going against their own tough task in Mike Foltynewicz. The former top prospect is pitching the best he has in his major league career to date. His calling card is his blistering fastball that averages 96.11 MPH.

Foltynewicz has increased the use of his fastball this year and decreased the usage rate of his sinker, which has led to success. Look out of more of the same in Miami on Thursday.

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